Monday, October 19, 2015

Summerhouse near Grenaa

Eleven days since my last post of our adventures, yikes! It was fall break here in Denmark, when all the schools are closed and many parents take off work and families go on some sort of holiday. The students from the folk school went to Scotland (30 hours each way by bus and ferry-ugh!) and we were invited to go to Grenaa for a few days. When Jeff was a student here in high school, he lived in Grenaa and the families he stayed with are still there. One of them owns a summer house about 15km away from there, on the ocean, and invited us to stay there. We left on Friday morning and returned home on Tuesday evening, and it was a very nice time of being "away", even though our regular daily life here is not that stressful generally.

What a delightful summer house it was! The neighborhood it's in is all summer houses, and all of them are one storey tall and it's quite dark -no street lights, dirt roads, and lots of trees and hedges. When you walked in, it felt "small" and cozy, not little. Just perfect. Jeff and I both said that if we ever get a summer house, this is exactly what we'd want it to be like! The kitchen-dining-living room is one space, with a small woodstove that acts as the furnace and will heat the entire house. There is a small room off one side that has a loveseat and chair and is perfect for reading while drinking your morning coffee. The dining table seats six easily, and we had friends for dinner one night and it wasn't a bit crowded with eight of us. There are three bedrooms which easily sleep two people each and a crib in ours so there could easily be seven people sleeping comfortably in the house; one bed in the kids room is a bit larger, so you could probably fit three kids in that room instead of just two. A lovely vacation spot!
 I think the woodstove was one of the highlights for us. The boys especially loved having a fire in there; loved going to get wood from the woodpile outside and fill up the copper bucket to make sure we always had enough. It's amazing how much heat a 2-foot-square iron fireplace can put out! We never left the fire going while we were asleep at night, and still the house stayed warm even when the temperatures dipped into single-digits.
The large-screen tv was nice too. Jeff was sick part of the time we were here, so we didn't have quite as many adventures around town as we were planning on. So instead we caught up on some shows -the boys were quite interested in the British bakery-challenge bakeoff, and some of the gardening shows. We had a generally-no-kindle rule while we were at the summerhouse, so they did a love of playing together instead. There were several games and toys in the kids room, and in the playhouse outside, to keep them entertained.

This loveseat fit perfectly into the room off the main room -you can see the footstool from the chair opposite it in the picture above as well. What a perfect spot for reading or just relaxing in the sun streaming in the windows.

It's interesting that in a summerhouse neighborhoood, you're actually not allowed to live year-round. In some of them, you can get special permission to be a year-round resident, but this is not one of those. There is no mail and they don't clear the roads of snow during the winter time. They are just summerhouses. And apparently there is a rule that only Danes can own them. This helps make it possible for Danes to have them, keeping real estate costs in check. Too many outside influences would drive the prices up and make it nearly impossible for most people to afford. When we first arrived, there weren't many people around, but as the weekend wore on, several people showed up to the other houses on the street, and we were assured that because it was fall break, it would be quite busy in the neighborhood with families coming to spend time.

The kids had a great time playing outside on the swings, in the sandbox, in the playhouse, and in the game room. Recently, Erik built a garage on the property and half of it is designed as a game room with a ping pong table, foosball, air hockey, and a table-size pool table. There are also Duplo blocks and darts, depending on your age. The boys loved having this room to play in! They also really loved the play house. Even Svea got in on the action there.

It was a short 10-minute walk to the ocean. We paused a few times -so it took us longer than 10 minutes- to listen to the water get louder as we got closer. It's fun to be able to show the kids some of the 'magic' that exists -not magic, per se, but just the awesomeness of the world around us. Trying to get two 5 year olds and a 1 1/2 year old to be quiet enough to hear the water is an interesting feat, but once they realized they could hear it, they got excited about it as well and would tell us to pause to see if it had gotten any louder. So that was fun. This tractor was in one of the driveways we passed on our way to the ocean. I just loved the whole picture of it, with the vine-covered garage and the long grass-covered road. It seems like it should be on a greeting card or a post card.

The water was beautiful here. On days when it was cloudy and overcast, the water took on a greyish hue that reflected the sky, and on days when it was sunny and there wasn't a cloud to be seen, the water was the bluest blue -like something out of a crayon box.
Anders couldn't resist the water. Even though it was windy and chilly, he got as close as he could (and went home with wet feet). Torben preferred looking for rocks and shells in the sand. 
Svea loves the backpack carrier, and found it was a great way to enjoy the beach -no sand in her toes!

On Friday evening after we arrived, Jeff's friend Morton and his wife Anja and toddler came for dinner. We cooked chicken on the charcoal grill outside and had creamed potatoes and salad. We're not really used to charcoal, so we ended up eating kind of late, but it sure was good! It was fun to have people over and just talk while the kids played. Their daughter is just about a month younger than Svea -and thankfully there were several little dollies in the cupboard so they could each play with them!

The next morning, Morton and Anja were going out to the stable to take care of their horse and asked if we'd like to come out as well. The kids haven't ever seen horses up close like that, except for briefly at the state fair, so we thought it would be fun.
Their horse is named Star, and he seems to be a gentle giant. The boys fed him carrots out of their hands.
 Svea was thrilled to see the horses! Hopefully we have not created a monster. She is learning to say the word "horse" now, though, so we might be in for trouble. Good thing I've got a couple of cousins who own horses.
 I held a carrot out so Svea could see the horse up close, but that made her just a bit nervous.
 We walked together with Morton and Anja to take their horse out to a field to graze as well. They share rental of a particular plot of field with their friends and the horses go out for a few hours each day. It was fun to see all of the horses running "free" within the confines of their fields.
This horse was getting a haircut the entire time we were there, and the kids were quite fascinated by it. It takes a long time to groom a horse!

It was a fun little morning adventure for them to get to walk around at the stable and see so many horses. When we were done there, we surprised them and took them to McDonald's for lunch. We haven't been out to eat since we've been here and when we pulled into the parking lot they didn't know what was going on. There was a gas station at the other end of the parking lot, and they asked why we were parked so far away from the pumps if we were getting gas. We said we weren't, and they repeatedly asked why we were there, then. It was pretty fun, actually, to see how long it took them to discover that we were going to eat! It wasn't quite as expensive as I was expecting it to be -about 230Kr so, somewhere around $40. I was expecting it to be more than that. They really enjoyed it, and also understood that it was a treat and not something we were going to do often. That made it even more fun.

We were here over the weekend of our 7th anniversary. Time sure flies! We were invited to Karin and Erik's home for afternoon kaffe and dinner on the day of our anniversary, by happenstance. It is their summerhouse we stayed in, and their year-round home is just about 15 minutes away from it. Still, it is outside of town enough to feel that it's "going away" to go there. We had a delightful time at their home as well. Their daughter who is our age and her husband and two kids were there, as well as their younger daughter. She got the job of entertaining the kids while we talked for a few hours. They had fun playing hide and seek together -though the boys talked quite a while about how Tenna only hid behind doors because she was so tall! We all went for a walk between our afternoon kaffe and dinner, and we happened upon a playground so we stopped to play there for a while. Svea wasn't quite big enough to climb the stairs to the slide, so I had to lift her up each time, but she enjoyed that just as much as the bigger kids did.

On Monday we were invited to Per and Jytte's house for lunch -another of the host families Jeff lived with when he was here twenty years ago. We had a fun time with them as well. They have a few grandchildren and had lots of toys that the kids managed to spread over the entire living room while we were there. They tried making American pancakes for us from a magazine recipe, and the boys completely devoured them! They were thrilled about that.

Around Grenaa, there are lots of things to do, including the zoo, the aquarium, lots of shops, and many other touristy attractions. Those will have to wait for another time. We received the travel guide to the area from one of the kitchen workers here, so we will plan another trip in the spring when the places open again. Many of them close over the winter because the weather isn't ideal for being outside.

Instead, we visited with friends, sat by the fire, played in the playhouse, walked to the ocean, and the boys climbed trees. We had a great fall break!

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